Xcel Energy Minnesota was fined $1 million dollars for exceeding a maximum number of customer service complaints as a result of significant delays in its processing of interconnection requests for solar projects.
A ruling from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) affirms the right of consumers to reasonable customer service in the interconnection process. Interconnection, the process of connecting a solar installation or other distributed energy resource (DER) to the electric grid, is a critical step in the project development process.
The recent case in Minnesota exemplifies both the types of challenges to interconnection that clean energy projects can face and why these delays and other frustrations can be so damaging for consumers and businesses. The resolution, recently reached in a hearing of the Minnesota PUC, provides a win for Minnesota consumers and solar companies.
The commission fined Xcel Energy for exceeding the threshold of complaints filed, many of which were about significant problems with Xcel’s interconnection process. It also provides a helpful precedent for how utility regulators can hold utilities accountable for providing an efficient interconnection process and good customer service to their ratepayers who are investing in solar and other clean energy technologies.
As the race to confront climate change grows increasingly urgent, these kinds of interconnection delays slow down the critical process of getting more solar and other distributed energy resources (DERs) on the grid. They also drive up the cost of developing solar projects, undermining the extensive work being done in states around the country to make solar development faster and more affordable.